We all know the saying: April showers bring May flowers. And that means sometimes the gung-ho golfer has to put up with wet conditions. Modern-day technology, and a few nice fabrics, have helped make those conditions more enjoyable.
Zero Restriction kicks off a month of finding out more about the different options in rain gear. I had the opportunity to talk with Billy Draddy, the senior vice president and creative director of Zero Restriction. He gave me an inside look at the technology behind the brand, and why it’s a great option this spring.
As the top premium rain gear line on the links for many years, it only seems fitting to expand into a technological apparel line. Tell me about this transition and how it came about.
Any moisture management story requires layering — a moisture protection layer, a thermal/moisture transfer layer and a base layer. We were fully developed in the protection layer, starting with our Gore-Tex product down to our packable and knit waterproof products. For the thermal/mid layer we also had a full assortment of products for any weather condition. But in the base layer category we only had our z400 mock, which is great for the fall/winter time but it realistically could only be worn in 10 percent of the conditions you would wear the rest of our gear. So there was a hole in our product assortment, we were underserving the base layer. For a golf brand this was a big opportunity considering this is what golfers wear all the time.
What is Zero Restriction bringing to the table that other apparel lines do not have?
Technical performance expertise, designed by golfers for golfers. It’s rare that you find a clothing designer that plays golf. It’s even rarer to find a designer who plays golf who has experience designing performance apparel. It’s a different skill set and supplier/factory base than traditional sportswear. At Zero, we have extensive experience designing performance gear, and we wear and play in our gear. So everything we bring to market has been worn and tested by the person who designed it. We then have Brad Faxon wear-test it to be sure it does what we say it’s going to do and that it stands up in competition day after day. This goes a long way in fine-tuning the details and making sure it actually performs.
I only saw a teaser on your web site of what the latest ZR-290X clothing is going to look like. Please tell me a little more about the style.
On a sourcing trip to Asia we discovered a mill that had an exciting new technology that could be imparted on our knitwear. The technology enabled us to impregnate our knit fabric with bio energy. This technology had only previously been seen in the ion bracelets that have become a staple among tour players and successful in pro shops. This was exciting to me, as I have had a positive experience using the bracelets to recover from an elbow ailment. With the bio energy in the shirt you will have enhanced flexibility and balance, and your muscles will react and recover quicker. This technology is coupled with a knitwear collection that is easy to care for, antimicrobial and wicks moisture. While it is designed to be actively inspired, you wouldn’t feel unconformable walking on the first tee of the most traditional club in America. The design still respects that golf is the game of kings and you should dress that way.
For spring we sold out of most shirts in the collection, so a lot (of players) are going to have to wait until fall to give it a try.
Billy, I know you were with Ralph Lauren for many years. Are you contributing to the overall style of this new line? Or are you just responsible for overseeing it?
I design every piece of product in the menswear assortment for Zero and oversee the design of the women’s pieces. So every new item that Zero brings to market I have sketched, sourced the fabric and trims, worked with our technical director to put dimension to, fit-corrected and wear-tested before it goes to market. The nice thing about being a small company is that you can be intimate with every step of the process.
Do you plan on adding a complete women’s collection for 2012? If so, what will the styling be like?
Our women’s collection has been slowly growing over the past couple of seasons. We see it as a great opportunity and we will certainly look to expand it. Like the men’s, it has to have authentic performance but it will be more chic than sporty. My wife today lives in performance apparel. She goes from dropping the kids at school, to yoga, to running errands, to picking the kids up at school; to dropping them at hockey — it never stops. So her clothing has to be able to go from one task to the next without requiring a wardrobe change. Our Zero women’s will be able to handle any of these tasks, plus you’ll be able to play golf in it and it will look appropriate at any golf/country club.
Are there any PGA Tour players that are going to be wearing the collection this season?
Being a small, grassroots company, we don’t have the capital to fund a Tour player sponsorship program. We give a lot of products out to the Tour players. Darren Clarke was wearing our rain wear when he won the British last year. So you will see it, especially when it starts to rain.
What type of fabrics are we going to see? And what technical aspects do they have?
When Zero was started, if you wanted the best in waterproof gear you wore our Gore-Tex Traveler. What made that jacket so revolutionary was that the pleated swing system allowed you to swing a golf club without restriction despite the fact that there was no stretch in the garment. Since then there has been great innovations in fabric, most notably stretch. Up until recently, though, you haven’t been able to get stretch in your garment without sacrificing waterproofness. We just launched our Pinnacle rain jacket that gives you stretch in your garment while still delivering the same 20,000 millimeter rain wear test results that our other premium waterproof pieces deliver and we guarantee it’s waterproofness for life. What makes this jacket even greater is that in the areas where you need enhanced stretch, across the back and around the elbow, we have engineered waterproof knit panels that give you the extra stretch that you need while not sacrificing the waterproof performance. So where our pleats used to give you the mobility you needed to swing a golf club, now our Power Torque Back does the same thing.
Besides wearing Zero Restriction, what is in this golfing season? And what is out?
Color continues to be important and it continues to get brighter and brighter, approaching the neon levels we saw in the ’80s. For our line we have to use this bright color differently than a sportswear collection would. A brightly colored polo is subtler than a brightly colored jacket because there is less of it. When we use color we use it in small blasts: a zipper, an engineered piecing, a reverse storm flap, a zipper garage. These color details sit on top of great classic outer shell colors such as royal, charcoal, navy and black. What is out — white belts with big logo belt buckles and bad golf shoes. I don’t think it’s really “out,” I’m just wishing it was!
When do the new designs start hitting shops?
The first line I designed is in stores for spring. We only redesign the core of the outerwear collection every two years, so that redesign will launch in June.
And most importantly, where can we buy the hottest new gear from Zero Restriction?
At your golf/country club or resort pro shop, better retailer or at http://www.zerorestriciton.com.